While the coronavirus pandemic turned our lives upside down, there are good news stories in 2020 that can put a smile on our faces.
Good news comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are small deeds with lasting impact. Some are grand and inspirational. Regardless of where you are in the world, may these stories spark hope in everyone’s lives.
World Food Programme
The World Food Programme won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize in October for “its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
“Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. It is a grand event held in Oslo’s city hall. In a normal year, it would have been filled to capacity, and you would have been greeted by the royal family, the president and the prime minister,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said via video link from the Norwegian capital.
A Girl’s Fundraising Project for a Zoo
Andy Soulard is only six years old but her age does not stop her from doing good in her community. She led a fundraising effort to save the Oakland Zoo as it was on the brink of shutting down permanently after it was hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
“She was really disappointed to hear that,” Kelly Soulard, Andy’s mother, said. “She was like, ‘Is there anything that I can do to help with the zoo.’ I said, ‘Well, we can start a fundraiser.’ She’s like, ‘That’s a great idea.'”
The first donation came from Andy, and it was $5 sent via the Tooth Fairy. Since then, over 1,300 people have chipped in from all over, such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York. People who donate $25 or more can receive a bracelet created by Andy herself. She has created about 100 so far, Kelly said. A neighbor helps them in growing bracelet-making effort and some of Andy’s classmates also participated in the drive.
Women’s representation in parliament
Women’s representation in parliament has more than doubled globally, achieving 25% of parliamentary seats in 2020, according to the United Nations’ World’s Women 2020 report published in October. Data shows that there are 20 countries with a woman head of state or government, up from 12 in 1995. Health outcomes for women also showed improvement in some key areas, particularly childbirth. “The risk of maternal death has been reduced globally by 38% between 2000 and 2017, with the greatest reduction achieved in Southern Asia (reduction of 59%),” the UN says.
World’s first 3D eye
The world’s first spherical artificial eye with a 3D retina was introduced by a team led by scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in June. This sparked hope for patients with visual impairment. The scientists said that the eye is better than existing bionic eyes and, in some cases, even surpass those of the human eye.
“The key feature allowing such breakthroughs is a 3D artificial retina – made of an array of nanowire light sensors which mimic the photoreceptors in human retinas,” the scientists said.
8,000-Plus Pounds of Trash Removed from Lakes
Non-profit organization Clean Up the Lake spent the past year taking out 8,000-plus pounds of garbage from the depths of Lake Tahoe and nearby Donner Lake in Northern California. The trash range from plastic bottles to a decades-old tape player. They were also able to pull out beer cans, tires, pieces of clothing, construction trash, sunglasses, and lighters. To conduct a complete clean-up, the group utilizes scuba divers, free divers searching from above, and jet skis to boats on the surface.
“We pulled out 8,000 pounds,” Colin West, founder and executive director of Clean Up the Lake said. “We probably discovered over 20,000 pounds of trash and things that don’t belong under the surface.”
New Plastic Alternative
Lucy Hughes, a 23-year-old British design graduate, invented a biodegradable material made from fish waste that could replace plastic in packaging. She was able to develop a strong, flexible and translucent material called MarinaTex. An Atlantic cod could produce the organic waste needed for 1,400 bags of MarinaTex, Hughes says. “It makes no sense to me that we’re using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that may have a life cycle of less than a day,” she explained.
Cancer treatment breakthroughs
A new cancer vaccine appears promising, according to preclinical laboratory studies released by researchers based at Australia’s Translational Research Institute, in collaboration with The University of Queensland, in July.
“We are hoping this vaccine could be used to treat blood cancers… plus solid malignancies including breast, lung, renal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and glioblastoma,” said Lead Researcher Associate Professor Kristen Radford. Other cancer treatment breakthroughs mentioned at the virtual 2020 meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology were developments in treatment for patients with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer; a research result for high-risk breast cancer patients; and a successful prostate cancer trial involving an existing drug for breast and ovarian cancer.
Arnhem City Replaces Asphalt with Greenery
Arnhem City is altering its layout to protect their area from the extremes of climate change, such as flooding and heatwaves. Its 10-year plan involves replacing 10% of the city’s asphalt with grass and other greenery to help dispel heat and improve rainfall absorption. Arnhem City plans to absorb 90% of rainwater into the soil rather than it going into sewers. “We must adapt to the climate change that is taking place now,” says city alderman Cathelijne Bouwkamp.
Giuseppe Paternò, at the age of 96, has become the oldest graduate of Italy. He was awarded first-class honours in philosophy from the University of Palermo in Sicily. “It’s one of the happiest days of my entire life,” said Paternò. He entered the university in 2017. He was not able to go to university when he was younger due to poverty and war. “Neighbours used to ask, ‘why all this trouble at your age?’ They couldn’t understand the importance of fulfilling a dream, regardless of my age,” says Paternò.
Mobile library for rural
Antonio La Cava, 73, transformed a three-wheeled van into a mobile library in rural Italy because he was concerned about students’ lack of interest in reading.
He has been driving his Bibliomotocarro and bringing books to children in the remote villages and communities of Basilicata for 20 years now. “I was worried about growing old in a country of non-readers,” he says. “Without a book, so often a child is alone.”
“As soon as you see it, it puts you in a good mood,” he says. “It suggests the idea of a refuge, of relaxation, which is what every book offers.”
La Cava also conducts creative writing workshops and shows short films inspired by books, all of which underpins his belief that books and culture, as he puts it, are “made by and for everyone, not just a privileged few.”
These are the 10 good news stories in 2020.